Pronunciation Tips for ESL Learners

I work with some adult ESL learners who worry about their pronunciation.   They are concerned that since they learn English as an adult, it is impossible to pronounce certain words correctly.    But there are some pronunciation tips that can help them master those words.

Some grew up in languages that do not share certain sounds with English, such as the letter “r” for example.    Some Asian languages do not have this sound, and often would substitute the sound “l” for “r”.     Although most people can figure out the intended meaning from the context, it doesn’t feel good to be asked to repeat all the time.

I know some people are uncomfortable talking on the phone in English.   They worry that others cannot understand them.   I want to assure you that there are only certain sounds that can potentially present a problem.   So you can go ahead and talk with people on the phone.   Just work on those few sounds.   And there aren’t that many of them.

Pronunciation tips on several sounds

I believe it is possible to learn the mechanics of certain sounds even if you did not grow up with it.   The article How to pronounce the sounds r, p, v, and th for ESL learners goes into the specifics of several sounds.

If Spanish is your native language, the sound “p” could come across as soft.   For example, you mean to say “Paul.”   However, the soft “p” in Spanish may sound like “ball.”   There are techniques in the article to show you how to make the “p” sound stronger.

Another sound that is not common in Spanish is “th.”  (However, I remember a friend who speaks Castellano uses the “th” sound.)  The article goes into how to produce the “th.”

You can read these tips in How to pronounce the sounds r, p, v, and th for ESL learners here.


If you find this blog helpful, here is one on How to learn English in a natural way.


Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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